The mail comes about the same time each day, it’s rarely early and occasionally late, but about the same time. Getting the mail was once a big deal but now, not so much.

It’s not unusual for us to forget to check the mail and when we do to discover its packed.

Full-Mailbox

USED TO BE

The mail used to be about letters from loved ones and good friends. It’s how people stayed in touch, but not anymore. In this era the cell phone has become our connection point. It makes calls, can email and text and facilitates all kinds of social media.

The Mail Box is less about personal correspondence and more about:

  • unwanted catalogues selling every kind of thing
  • bills
  • flyers and shopping guides
  • promotions, political stuff and propaganda

The mail box has become a wasteland of useless junk destined for the local land fill. How many trees in my lifetime have been sacrificed to produce the tons of junk-mail I didn’t request or want to receive?

TERTIUS?

A man named Tertius once wrote a letter that needed to be delivered. It was an important letter, the kind that made it into the cannon of scripture, and we know it as the book of Romans. In those days such letters were delivered by a brave and trusted messenger for the delivery was fraught with peril.

I know, Tertius didn’t write Romans, it was authored by the Apostle Paul. Actually, Paul verbalized the letter and Tertius wrote it down. In fact, he said so in Romans 16:22

“I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord.”

PAUL’S DELIVERY PERSON

But how did Paul get his important letter to the church in Rome? The letter probably  originated in Corinth, a trip of nearly 1400 miles. The person delivering the letter would need to be extraordinary.

  • courageous
  • strong
  • unimpeachable character
  • capable
  • smart
  • completely trustworthy
  • willing

The person Paul selected to deliver his mail was a Christian, which makes sense. Also, the person was a deacon, a special servant of the church known for being dedicated to the Christian community and committed to advancing the gospel.

Who did Paul choose? Who had earned Pauls’ respect to compete such a long and dangerous journey? Who did he ask to deliver his letter to Rome?

It was a woman named Phoebe.

TO CLOSE

I love the book of Romans. It’s easily one of two or three of the most important writings in the New Testament.

The mail at my house is nothing to get excited about. Imagine going to the mail box and finding a letter from Paul.

Thank you Phoebe.

A CASE For Camp

This is the week. It’s the last BIG event of our summer. We call it CASE Camp which stands for Creative Art and Science Exploration. Doesn’t that sound like fun! It’s for elementary kids and we have 192 of them coming.

IMG_0395
Not one of CASE camp’s  wonderful volunteers, but close, really very close. Actually, he’s the A/V guy for the week.

THIS IS COOL

The cool thing is that 71 of the kids are from our church and 121 are from the neighborhood. It’s the largest children’s event of our year that’s purposed at filling kids hearts with Jesus.

This week they will learn about:

  • God the Great I Am
  • Creation and creativity
  • Art and artistry
  • Jesus the Real Redeemer

It’s also four days of hanging with friends, making new friends, and having a sense of community. It’s four days of learning by exploration. It’s a massive camp to produce, the prep for materials is incredible and it daily requires 80 volunteers of adults and teens.

ME?

They didn’t have CASE camp when I was a kid. The closest I got to science was shaking a can of soda and spraying my friends. The closest I got to art involved a spray can of paint and a wall. Sorry mom, it’s true. 

THE GOAL?

Well, the goal is to instill belief, to deepen faith and to help them understand more about God and his Son. It’s a great thing and it starts this morning. 

TO CLOSE

I don’t know much about science and even less about art, so I’m not crucial to the success of the event. I’ll just write about it.

Thanks to our Children’s Ministry and Youth Ministry for their constant effort to serve God by serving those to whom the Kingdom is given.

HAVE FUN!

 

Moments On High Places

WHAT HAPPENED?

My heart is full this morning, or at least at near capacity. Last night, Wednesday night, we had an evening or praise. It was glorious.

To start, one of our worship leaders, with an eight person praise team, led us in songs of great meaning and of great praise. We also had two people share their testimony about the power and blessing of the camp last week.

The celebration was all the better because many  who attended the camp were there last night. Their worship at camp was incredible because the campers were challenged to worship without boundaries, to let the walls come down and their self-consciousness to melt. They did and were able to give wholehearted praise to God.

Our worship center was lit up with energy and excitement, the people attending were of all ages and backgrounds but for an hour last night, we were one voice.

AND THEN?

Afterwards, one of our Dad’s baptized his teenage son. Probably 200 people stayed to share in the moment. While standing in the water together, he shared his son’s faith journey and then shared a little of his own. They hugged each other and the tears were flowing. Finally, after a few minutes, he immersed him into Jesus. It was one of the most moving moments I’ve ever witnessed.

I know, mountain top experiences aren’t meant for every day, that’s why they’re called  mountain top, and most of us don’t live on mountains. But I wouldn’t mind having some of that as often as I can get it.

As far as I know, today will be a normal day. I’ll be in my office at the church. I’ll put the finishing touches on the lesson for Sunday. I’ll check with staff members and review whatever needs reviewing. It’ll be a regular day, but my soul will be on fire and my heart filled with joy.

THANKS

Thank you God for your Spirit. Thank you Holy Spirit for filling us. Thanks you Jesus for sending the Spirit so we could experience moments like last night.

Shalom

 

Listen To Our Hearts

A HARD DAY

Someone said there would be days like this. Someone was right. We all know tough times and discouraging days, certainly I do. But not like today.

Today, there is a funeral at my church. Actually, it’s a Celebration of Life Service. That’s what we call them now, a Celebration of Life. Mostly it means there won’t be a long-winded preacher preaching something nobody wants to hear.

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We hurt and grieve and wonder if God is listening.

The celebration allows for laughter, joyful memories and sweet stories. It’s not to prevent tears but to embrace other emotions and expressions. It’s surrounding those we care about to help them celebrate the life of the one they’ve lost. Sometimes, the one they’ve lost is a child.

Today’s service is for a little boy who died a few days ago.

LEVELS?

There are levels of grief. One is when a distant relative, whom we barely know, passes away in their sleep at the age of 89. Another level is when a young child tragically succumbs to illness or is struck down by a senseless accident.

All the deaths of children are tragic and senseless.

Arguably, the only grief that is harder than losing a child is losing more than one. Today, many will gather to support a family who has lost four children in just a few years. It is beyond words, beyond explanation, beyond answers.

The things we say at times like this can seem trite or useless. Sometimes, all we can do is hug the grieving, weep with the hurting, and hope they can hear our hearts because our words have stuck in our throats.

YET, WE PRAY

We pray to Him who seemingly turned a deaf ear to the calling, ignored the praying and abandoned the grieving. We pray because prayer is what we have, along with our faith.

Gut-wrenching grief can leave the shattered with a deep-seated anger at God. We know, we try to understand, but we lack the words, the theology, or the wisdom to comfort them. And yet, we pray. We pray, for our faith reminds us that the God who sacrificed his own son knows something of loss.

TO CLOSE

So, please pray today. If words fail then trust the Holy Spirit to speak on your behalf. Please forward this to others and allow this day to be a day that God our Father listens to  our hearts.

Thank you.

The Past Pushes Us Forward!

HOLY LAND TOUR-FINAL DAYI’ve not blogged as much as intended. Some of the lapse was the internet and some was me.

There’s been many powerful and overwhelming days, as if God himself invited me to meet with him in the desert so he could speak with me. He did and he has.

FINAL DAY

On this last day we will visit Jerusalem’s Holocaust Museum, then spend some in the Garden Tomb, have an early dinner and then go to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport. It’s a light schedule but an emotionally heavy day. Glad to be going home. Sad to be leaving.

UNDERSTANDING

Visiting the Holy Land, and this is my 4th visit, you begin realizing that there is nothing divinely powerful in the ruins, the sites, or the ancient synagogues.

The power isn’t found in ancient stones of the past but in Jesus the living stone. The blessing we seek isn’t in the stories of great men and great events, but in the the sacred scriptures.The resurrected Messiah has power, the places and people of past events have none. But, they remind us of who does, and vividly.

I’ve walked where Jesus walked. Iv’e stood where Abraham lived. I’ve stepped through the ruins of King David’s Palace. I’ve sat in the temple courtyards where Jesus taught his disciples and healed and people.

It’s inspirational, and life affecting, to see it and imagine it happening. But there is not a single once of divine power in the ancient ruins, the Jordan River, or the Temple Mount. It’s all in Jesus and it all points to him.

TO CLOSE

Visiting the Holy Land is about understanding how the Kingdom of God, in one form or another, has always been here. It’s embracing that God has been with his people since time began, that he is with us still, and will continue to carry out his purpose for all time to come.

God isn’t finished with Israel, he is still here, still working, as he is everywhere and with everyone. 

Shalom

Taking The Plunge

HOLY LAND TOUR
If you feel that you’ve missed some blogs you aren’t wrong. I’ve had internet issues and my blog has been wonky to say the least. However, here is something we learned a few days ago. 

MIKVEH 

Some of you know this word and some of you have heard me speak about it in lessons. It’s a Hebrew word meaning to cleanse, or cleanse for ritual purification.  

When visiting the ruins of ancient villages it becomes obvious that the Mikveh was an essential part of the home, an essential element of Jewish life. The Mikveh was a square or rectangle shaped hole in the ground that was lined with rock or stone and filled with enough water for an adult to submerge. Kind of like a bathtub, but not. .

The Mikveh was used for ceremonial cleansing and not for washing off dirt. In fact, next to the Mikveh was a clay jar with water used to clean the outer person so then the ceremonial waters could clean the inner person.

Cleansing of this nature was done for many reasons. It was used when you were defiled by touching a dead body or animal or when coming into contact with anything that defiled you. It was used at the Temple in Jerusalem, in fact there were hundreds of them, for no one could enter the Temple unless they were first ceremonially clean.

BAPTISM 

For Christians, the Mikveh is known by a different word: baptism. For us, full immersion in water is done in the name of Jesus, and signifies experiencing the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. It’s where the old is crucified and buried and the new is raised to live life in Jesus.

The word “baptism” doesn’t mean ceremonial cleansing, it can’t be defined that way. Baptism comes from a Greek word that was made into an English word and it means immersion. But translators didn’t want to translate it as immersion for fear of offending many denominational churches who sprinkle or use some other form of “baptism.”

We wouldn’t call John the Baptist, “ John the Sprinkler.” We wouldn’t teach that Jesus went to the Jordan River to be sprinkled by John.

TO CLOSE

Homes in first century Palestine were about community, it was where parents, grandparents, and grandchildren could dwell together in separate rooms but rooms and space that was all connected. But one of the most important things they all shared was the Mikveh. The ability to immerse themselves in the blessing of ceremonial cleansing, to be pure before YHWH. What a beautiful gift to families. What a lovely thought for us all. Thanks you God.

Shalom

The New Way of Old

HOLY LAND TOUR-DAY FIVE
Yesterday was day five of our Holy Land tour. We spent our time viewing the excavations and ruins of some of Galilee’s villages and synagogues. It’s interesting how people who lived 2000 years ago aligns with how people are trying to live today. 

CAPERNAUM

It was a fishing village on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee and was home to several of the apostles. It was well know for it’s synagogue which was built with money donated from a Centurion.

Some Facts 

– Jesus left Nazareth and moved to Capernaum to launch his ministry.

– He lived with Simon Peter and his family for about three years.

– Some of his greatest miracles were performed there.

– He taught, healed, and lived among the people, he was one of them.

CORAZIN

Just a couple of miles from Capernaum was the village of Chorazin and its synagogue. Perhaps not as large a village or as grand a synagogue, but a village that offered a beautiful setting in the hills above the Sea of Galilee.

Some Facts

– Jesus performed many miracles in Chorazin.

– He became displeased with the community for their lack of faith.

– It was obvious that the village was constructed around family.

An interesting observation about the two villages, and others like them, was that their culture totally revolved around family.

– Every family had to make a living

– Few could afford to hire outside help

– They needed a growing work force

– That happened by having many children who married and had many children

– The sons brought their brides home to live with the family

– The daughters married and moved with their husbands to their families

– It was an agrarian culture and deeply dependent on family

An interesting aspect to that culture was how they all lived together. Today, because of prosperity and a different culture, our families separate and live elsewhere. Our children grow up and get married and move away, either near or far, but away from the parents.

Not so in first century Israel. They built their families with a “family dwelling” model. Mom and Dad had a house and as children came they added rooms. As children became men and married, they moved into added rooms that expanded the house with more walls and living space. Over time, the “house” became a community of family, perhaps 50-60 people living together. With such numbers were additional field hands, fishermen, and the workers they needed to expand their fields, reap a greater harvest and so forth.

TO CLOSE

In John 14 Jesus told his apostles that he was leaving to prepare a house, or mansion as some versions put it, and that he would return to take them to be with him.

We think of heaven as mansions on streets of gold. But what Jesus was saying was that he was leaving to go and build a room on his Father’s house for each of them. A place for everyone, a home for everyone to be together, to be a family.

Think about it. It’s the new way of old. We look forward to an eternal dwelling based on how people lived 2000 years ago!

Shalom

A Couple of Cool Mountains

HOLY LAND TOUR-DAY THREE

Yesterday was a great day. Our group is drawing closer to each other and bonding over the shared experience of the Holy Land. It’s been wonderful to see it happen. 

Our second day took us to two places:

1. The Desert of Zin

2. The Fortress of Masada

At first glance the two have little in common, but not true, they share many similarities.

They both are:

1. In desert locations

2. Exist in mountain terrain

3. Centered around famous people

4. Significant to the biblical narrative

THE DESERT OF ZIN

There is in Zin a massive and mysterious canyon where Moses provided water for the people and their live stock. Provide water he did but the way he did it changed his life.

 Moses had been distraught over the people. Their constant grumbling and desire to return to Egypt were demonstrations of a faithless and impatient spirit that was all to quick to give up. On that day, while they demonstrated their lack of trust Moses demonstrated his growing anger. He took the Staff of God and, in full view of the people, hit the rock twice which greatly displeased YWEH. Moses failed to demonstrate God as holy and as a consequence was forbidden from entering the Promise Land. It was a tough day for Moses.

THE FORTRESS OF MASADA

This incredible mountain escape was commissioned by Herod the Great who was a prolific builder of great structures and palace retreats. He was not the rightful heir of King David and he wasn’t even Jewish but of mixed ancestry. He used his political skill to curry favor from Rome and got himself declared King of Judea.

His great fear was that the Jews would revolt or that Rome would revoke his power. So, in case of the worst case scenario Herod would need somewhere to go. Masada was built just for that purpose. It was in the middle of nowhere, on top of mountain, out in the desert of Judea. It’s a magnificent and impressive place.

A FEW THOUGHTS

1. Moses was a great servant of God, Herod never served God.

2. Moses delivered his people from Egypt, Herod enslaved his people.

3. Moses wanted only to help them, Herod wanted only to rule them.

4. Moses worshipped the Lord God, while Herod worshipped himself.

TO CLOSE

Two mountain experiences, two impressive things to see. The Canyon of Zin was of God’s design with immense beauty and majesty. The fortress of Masada was of man’s design and revealed the empty heart of a wicked man.

Let us not be overly impressed by what men can achieve but amazed at what God has done and still does. What are we building? Our we seeking to glorify ourselves or are we seeking to glorify the Lord God? The Canyon Rock or the Fortress of Masada? Which are you pursing?

Shalom From the Holy Land

A Walk On the Beach

HOLY LAND TOUR: DAY ONE

Well, it’s Monday morning and I’m blogging not from my desk at home but from my room at the Leonardo Hotel in down town Tel Aviv, Israel. I’m here with a group from my church to see the Holy Land. We arrived last night in time to eat dinner and take a walk on the beach of the Mediterranean Sea. It a was beautiful moonlit evening, cool and breezy.  

In a few minutes we’ll have breakfast and then we’re off on the grand adventure, the first day of our tour. I’ve been here several times but it’s the first time for those in the group. I’m so excited to share it with them, to watch their eyes and to see their reactions to what they’re about to see.

MY FIRST TRIP

My first time here was a life changing experience. It deeply affected me: it reinvigorated my faith, put a zeal in my preaching and gave me a whole new enthusiasm for bible study.

LAST NIGHT 

As we worked our through the downtown traffic our guide, a good friend and fellow Yeshua believer, suggested that we are here because God wanted us to be here, that no place else could we expect to have the meeting with God that God wants to have with us.

COMING UP

Over the next two weeks my blog will offer a day by day travel-log with my observations and insights. This isn’t a vacation. It’s not a stroll down a historical memory lane. It’s an opportunity to meet God in the desert, to see him on the waters of the Sea of Galilee and to better imagine Jesus in the streets of Jerusalem as he was led to his death.

TO CLOSE

So, stay tuned and walk the holy land with me. It’s a beautiful thing.

SHALOM

14,000 and Couting!

HOLY LAND TOUR: DAY TWO

Monday was a full day of interesting sites and fascinating history. We completed Day One in fine fashion and all are healthy, happy, and hungry for more.

SIMON PETER

We spent some time in Joppa, the home of Simon the Tanner where Peter was staying when he received the vision about Jew/Gentile equality for the Gospel. That vision changed the course of Christianity, beginning with Cornelius, a Roman centurion. It was a good place to visit and was inspiring to be in the place God gave Peter such an important message!

THEN TO AYLON

In 1945 a group of college kids accepted a challenge that would put their lives at risk for three years. They were asked to build and operate a highly secret bullet factory, and do so while under cover of an operating kibbutz. The factory used 47 workers, working 10 hours a day, six days a week, in an underground factory roughly the size of a tennis court. They made 9mm bullets for a machine guns their brothers used to fight for independence. In three years they manufactured 2.25 million bullets, averaging 14,000 a day. They were never detected.

 It’s an amazing story and some of those amazing young people are still alive and living in Israel. They are now in their 90’s and occasionally visit the museum that was once their top secret underground factory.

ON TO TEL BEER SHEVA 

We next visited the ruins of an ancient village some 4000 years old, a place dating beyond Abraham and Isaac who both had wells dug there. It was an impressive place, especially the underground caverns and cisterns for storing water. It was a remarkable demonstration of building techniques and construction beyond what most of us would have thought even possible. It was life in an ancient time

IN CLOSING

Seeing the Holy Land puts much in perspective. It was home to many of the Bible characters that we learned about as children. They were real people, with families, and lived their lives as best they could, serving the Lord by carrying out his will.

 Our lives are different from those who lived here thousands of years a go. On the other hand, perhaps not all that different. We pursue the living of our lives, the raising of families, the advancement of our careers, and we mow the yard and clean the gutters.

Simon Peter, Cornelius, Abraham and Isaac, they all lived as best they could and strove to serve God as best they could. And those young people who sacrificed so much and worked so hard in the underground factory, well, they lived as best they could too. In any age, God is.

Praise be to God. Shalom